The Top Ten Blogs on the Future of Books, Media and Publishing

October 29, 2009

Eoin Purcell has an excellent blog on publishing, and one of his very useful entries is called “The Top Ten Blogs on the future of books, media and publishing.” Though it’s going on three years old, all are still active and valuable.

I list a selection of my favorites here:

I’ll keep adding to it: there’s so much great information out there (if you can only find the time to read it all).

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Fun Facts About Blogs

August 11, 2009

According to the Harper’s Index in the August issue of the same magazine, which cannot be seen here unless a subscriber, 94% of blogs have not been updated in the last four months (Harper’s quotes Technorati as the source).


The Return of “Pay for Play” and “Checkbook Journalism”

July 14, 2009

We’ve seen it all before in the long-forgotten days of print journalism. One minute you’re reading a story about a great new restaurant in a newspaper or city magazine and then you turn the page and, oh-my-gosh, there’s an advertisement from the very same restaurant. What a coincidence! Publishers have struggled with paid “journalism” since the beginning of (publishing) time. Mostly they’ve accommodated it. Some even specialize in it. The purest form is the most unabashed, such as those magazines and glossy hardcovers you discover in your hotel room. You learn to suspect that “Bob’s World-Famous Steakhouse” may be world-famous only because they named it so and because they advertise it as such to the ill-informed and the unsuspecting visitor. This practice is generally called “pay for play”. (When the publisher discloses the financial relationship it’s then clearly noted as “advertorial” or just as “advertisement”.)

Well, Nick Denton, proprietor of Gawker Media, has updated the practice for the online world.


According to a report at the reputable Nieman Journalism Lab, Gawker has internally re-introduced the practice of paying bonuses to writers based on pageviews.

Nieman quotes from an internal memo to staffers from Denton:

Each writer on a site will have a (pretty demanding) individual pageview target…That target will be proportional to a writer’s base compensation. i.e. the more your monthly pay, the more people you’re expected to reach. If you go 10% over target, you get a 10% bump in pay. The target will rise as the traffic of the site as a whole increases. Your site’s editor-in-chief will be in touch to discuss the details later this week.

Gawker also follows the practice of the sleaziest tabloid newspapers by paying for photos and video that can generate pageviews. This is a version of another much-maligned practice known as “checkbook journalism” (defined by as “the practice of paying for a news story or an interview, or for exclusive broadcasting or publishing rights”). Gawker has no shame, and posts the policy publicly, offering “$5.00 for every thousand views, with payment made to the charity or liquor store of your choice.”

The Nieman article concludes by noting that Denton recently explained to The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz: “‘We don’t seek to do good. We may inadvertently do good. We may inadvertently commit journalism. That is not the institutional intention.'”

How admirable!

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A Diagram that “Speaks for Itself”

July 9, 2009

One of the great features of blogging is where what appears to be a single entry is in fact a combination of two, or, in this case, of three different “articles.”

My Google newsfeed directed me tonight to an interesting blog entry by literary agent Kristin Nelson titled “Is Publishing Just About To Be Disrupted?” The last comment as I write comes from Germany and notes that “as humans, we tend to think linear (sic), while social / and especially technological developments are often characterized through exponential growth.” The author includes a link to an article in German on this topic which contains the following chart, which the author notes “speaks for itself.”












The title of the chart, not shown here, translates via Google as “Why deal with the disruption is so difficult?” “Marktdurchdringung” translates as “Market Penetration.” You’ll have to figure out “t” for yourself.

Is this chart speaking to you? Or perhaps you’ve seen charts very much like it before, and it is speaking to your memory of similar charts. Certainly this is the standard chart to illustrate the essential nature of modern technological change.

At any rate, the comment really was provoked when the blogger read the key link in Nelson’s blog, to the excellent entry by Michael Nielsen, titled “Is scientific publishing about to be disrupted?” (Nielsen is “one of the pioneers of quantum computation. Together with Ike Chuang of MIT, he wrote the standard text on quantum computation. This is the most highly cited physics publication of the last 25 years, and one of the ten most highly cited physics books of all time…”)

Like any great article, it’s about many more things than the title suggests.

Part I of the entry is titled “How Industries Fail,” and begins:

Until three years ago, the oldest company in the world was the construction company Kongo Gumi, headquartered in Osaka, Japan. Kongo Gumi was founded in 578 CE when the then-regent of Japan, Prince Shotoku, brought a member of the Kongo family from Korea to Japan to help construct the first Buddhist temple in Japan, the Shitenno-ji. The Kongo Gumi continued in the construction trade for almost one and a half thousand years. In 2005, they were headed by Masakazu Kongo, the 40th of his family to head Kongo Gumi. The company had more than 100 employees, and 70 million dollars in revenue. But in 2006, Kongo Gumi went into liquidation, and its assets were purchased by Takamatsu Corporation. Kongo Gumi as an independent entity no longer exists.

It’s a broad-ranging piece, certain to engage anyone in the publishing industries.

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The Next Media Company

May 25, 2009

The title of this blog is the same as one appearing today on Chris Brogan’s thoughtful blog.

After a brief intro he offers the following:

The Next Media Company Manifesto

Here’s what I believe might (emphasis mine) need to be true about the next media company:

  • Stories are points in time, but won’t end at publication. (Edits, updates, extensions are next.) (10)
  • Curators and editors rule, and creators aren’t necessarily on staff. (10)
  • Media cannot stick to one form. Text, photos, video, music, audio, animation, etc are a flow. (10)
  • Everything must be portable and mobile-ready. (Mobile devices need to evolve here, too). (10)
  • Everything must have collaborative opportunities. If I write about a restaurant, you should have wikified access to add to the article directly. (5)
  • Advertising cannot be the primary method of revenue. (8)
  • In-line content marketing, clearly delineated/disclosed/explained is one revenue stream. One of many. (8)
  • Contributors come in many shapes: onstaff, partner (how pros like TechCrunch link to Washington Post), guest (for love and glory only), and conversational come right to mind. Who else? (7)
  • Value-add services are another revenue stream. Why not book hotels and flights from my travel magazine directly? Why not buy how-to information on marketing from AdAge or FastCompany? (6)
  • Collaboration rules. Why should I pick the next cover? Why should my picture of the car crash be the best? (5)
  • Everything is modular and linkable. Everything is fluid. Meaning, if I want the publication to be a business periodical, then I don’t want to have to read a piece about sports. (10)
  • Paper isn’t dead: it’s on demand. (9)
  • Do-it-yourself publishing is next for us all. At first. (10)
  • We will all audition for mass physical distribution. (10)
  • It won’t matter (mass physical distribution) to us, lots of the time. (8)

I rated each item in the Manifesto from 1-10 (10 being the strongest agreement), and you’ll see that I support many of Mr. Brogan’s intriguing suggestions. But not all.

First a comment on his lead sentence. A manifesto is generally defined as a “a public declaration of principles and intentions” and a call to action. I don’t think that the word “might” has any place in introducing a manifesto. With it, the more appropriate title would be, “Some Thoughts Towards the Next Media Company.”

That aside, I see the major conflict between Brogan’s second point, “Curators and editors rule,” and his tenth point, “Collaboration rules.” Are these not contradictory? One of the key debating points about the media these days is exactly who rules. While we all welcome that the Internet has opened up so many opportunities for new voices to be heard, there’s a growing recognition that no one can possibly follow all the voices available, hence the need for curators and editors to guide us and catch errors of fact or omission.

So here too I stumble on his fifth point: “Everything must have collaborative opportunities. If I write about a restaurant, you should have wikified access to add to the article directly.” The use of the new verb “wikified” implies to me that Brogan is suggesting that I should have access to his restaurant review and be able to anonymously change or augment his content. I’m all for separate authored comments, but if I want to forge a reputation as a restaurant reviewer, I don’t want to write anonymously and give others the freedom to change what I’ve written. Takes us back to the curators and editors. They must rule.

In last week’s The Economist there’s an excellent analysis of the changes in the media business, specifically the news side of the business. The article focuses on the value of aggregators, such as the Huffington Post. Surely aggregation and curration can be used interchangeably?

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